Good morning Coordinators--
One challenge we face in our community is how to bring teachers and school staff along and have them buy into the community school concept. All of us (5 coordinators currently) have principals we work closely with and we serve on the leadership teams in our buildings which is a good starting point.
It feels that the partners in our building, ourselves included at time, are still viewed as an "extra add on", instead of part of the school's fabric which results in sometimes dismissive attitudes or behaviors towards our partners, family engagement initiatives, etc.
At the moment, these are perceptions and we would like to survey the teachers to see if they are valid and how to work on a solution. Does anyone have a survey or something similar they are willing to share to see what teachers' understanding of community schools are? I think our first step is to develop something that will give us insight as to where our teachers are at on the spectrum of understanding AND supporting the work. This will then allow us to develop a plan based on what our deficiencies/gaps are as coordinators leading the work to better support staff understanding and buy in of the community school model.
Also, any resources on how to frame the work as the way our schools functions and that everyone plays an integral role would be helpful.
Any support is appreciated!
Hi Arelis - I just wanted to show some solidarity. I've struggled with this as well. In my second year, I clearly remember someone telling me my job was like "fluffy frosting" and not essential.
Here are a few thoughts, and I'd be happy to discuss more over phone or email.
- I have not surveyed my teachers. I, in fact, know they don't understand fully community schools. But, I've worked around this by doing the work and somewhat ignoring the title. I know this is not ideal, but it gets the work done. The issue is finally coming to the forefront of things literally right now. We are up for accreditation, and the teachers have written in their report about being a community school but then asked "do we do this?" They don't always know what I'm doing, and that's okay because it's my job to get my part done. I've focused more on having strong, trusting, collaborative relationships with them so that they can trust me to do my part.
- I think there is a challenge too that many partners (or at least people in the position) come and go. It's hard to trust partners.
- I think if you can start from a place of ownership, it might work. What I mean is, find how you can support their projects. I'm sure you're doing that already. It helped me to do things that way because it eliminated the dismissive attitudes. If it starts as "their" work (the teachers' work), then it's not an add on. It's what they need.
I have a ton of other thoughts, but I wanted to start you off with some solidarity and just random sharing of thoughts.
Thank you so much for your reply! I would love to continue our conversation through email or over the phone. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number is 717-391-8689
Please shoot me an email and go from there!
Arelis, thanks for this post. I am sure there are many of our colleagues who are facing the same challenge. In addition to school leadership teams, does your school have grade level data team meetings? If so perhaps you can attend those meetings. It will give you a better understanding of what's happening in the classrooms during the day and you can demonstrate your value to them by potentially bringing in partners that can help support some of the academic challenges are managing with the students, like college interns or school day tutors. It will also allow you to better align the after school program with what's happening during the day.
We've heard this alot and will look into the creation of a survey. We do have some resources from the Coalition as well as partners in the field around developing a shared vision which may be helpful to get everyone on the same page. Additionally, we have some logic models and info on what a community school is that may be helpful to have on hand.
The Childrne's Aid Society has also developed a Community School Climate Self Assessment Tool that may be of use.
Let us know how else we can help!
I don't know if I emailed you back after last week but I thought I'd share that I brought up your question to the coordinators at my organization. We feel like most school staff do not know what we do, in fact they don't know our appropriate title. That said, we don't know what they do half the time either (I don't know what my biology teacher is teaching right now). So, we felt as coordinators it was our job to hold the vision of community schools and push the work forward as such, making it meaningful in individual ways to the staff members, partners, students, families, etc. But, that at the end of the day, we were the ones who had to hold the vision and know it by name, even if everyone on campus doesn't.
That said, we feel it is important to our organizations and to the community schools movement that those entities are on the same page as us, understand our work with community schools, etc. That's what really moves the larger level vision and work forward.
You bring up some good thoughts-- and I think the second paragraph there is key. I think to move the work forward there needs to be a certain level of trust and collaboration between all entities. I may not know what my 2nd grade colleague is teaching at this moment, but I know the work she does is powerful and contributes to community change in its own way.
Anyway, thanks for follow up!
I just wanted to share that I hear you and have faced similar issues, partially because I think schools are used to bringing in new programs, like an after school program, and community schools is a concept (and often culture shift), not a new program.
I've presented to all staff at one of our Staff Professional Development Trainings and may just need to do that each year to reinforce the community schools concept.
I agree with Jennie re: doing the work and not focusing on the title...and reaching out to teachers individually has helped, building those relationships. When they see me making an effort to provide them/their students with resources, it helps them to see the range of what I do, even if "community schools" the term isn't clear to them. Also when I'm planning something I make sure to get teacher buy in/feedback, so I know what aspects are important from their perspective.
I haven't done an actual survey, because it seems like they're already bombarded with district surveys for various things, but I think it would be super helpful to have one focused on community schools.
I have created short surveys re: services I've brought to the school, to get teacher feedback of whether or not it was worth student time, how did the logistics go, would they like to have them come back, etc.